“We consider the accession of the Balkan countries to the EU to be a necessity,” the President of the European Council, Prime Minister Costas Simitis, said at the end of the EU-Western Balkans Summit on Saturday. In similar vein, European Commission President Romano Prodi stressed that “the process of European unification will not be completed unless the countries of the Western Balkans become members of the European Union”.
Referring to the process of structural convergence of the countries of the region with the European Union, Simitis noted that the Association and Stabilisation agreements would be enriched with elements of the experience acquired from the Union’s enlargement. Furthermore, he underlined that the objective was to support sustainable development as well as to shape a framework of regional development and cooperation, which will attract investments. The Greek premier announced a 200 million euro increase (for the period 2004-2006) in assistance for the region totalling 5 billion euro (2000-2007).
Replying to a question on the European approximation of Serbia and Montenegro, but also of Kosovo in the event that the political problem in the region is not resolved, Simitis stressed that the region can be integrated in the EU, provided peace and cooperation is established and the corresponding will is present for a gradual promotion of the settlement of outstanding political issues.
Referring to the same issue, Prodi emphasised that “whatever the regime, Kosovo belongs to the Balkans and the Balkans to Europe”.
Prodi reiterated the commitment of the EU for a further increase in available funds for the region in the event of the rapid promotion of reforms, while once again stressing the need to tackle the problems of the region (development, security, crime) at a regional level. Moreover, he noted that the process of accession to the EU would proceed on the basis of the principle of differentiation.
After praising the Greek Presidency for its initiative on the Western Balkans, EU High Representative for CFSP Javier Solana announced the beginning of a political dialogue between Belgrade and Pristina on the issue of Kosovo.
The leaders of the countries of the region, after thanking the Greek Presidency for its actions, expressed their political will to promote the necessary reforms and further develop cooperation. They also called on the EU to continue the policy for the European integration of the Western Balkans. Regarding the matter of the recognition of the International Criminal Court, Bosnia appeared ready to accept its jurisdiction in the event of its accession to the EU, while Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia noted that they were examining the issue in the context of their national interests.